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Sun Apr 20 22:59:53 SAST 2014

Inspired Ronaldo to lift Portugal to win

Sapa-dpa | 21 June, 2012 07:070 Comments
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo evades a tackle by the Netherlands' Klaas-Jan Huntelaar during their Euro 2012 match on Monday. Portugal advanced and face the Czech Republic tonight

PORTUGAL will be looking again for a match-winning performance from Cristiano Ronaldo, while the Czech Republic may again have to do without their influential captain Tomas Rosicky as they battle tonight for a Euro 2012 semifinal spot.

Portugal, who came from behind to beat the Netherlands with a double from Ronaldo, are favourites as they seek a first major international title.

But the Czechs, under coach Michal Bilek, believe they can confound all the pre-tournament predictions in Warsaw's National stadium in the first of the tournament's knock-out games, with the winner knowing they will meet holders Spain or France.

The Czechs are also hoping for a repeat of Euro 1996 in England when they beat Portugal 1-0 thanks to a delightful chipped goal from Karel Poborsky at the same stage.

After an indifferent start and a couple of wasted goal opportunities in the 3-2 win over Denmark, Ronaldo was back to his Real Madrid best against the Dutch, although coach Paulo Bento is keen to point out that Portugal are not a one-man team.

"We don't claim to be favourites against the Czech Republic and it won't be easy," he said.

"They've shown they have the ability to turn a game and now we must continue our work and the quality we have shown so far. Maybe then we can even reach the semifinals."

Czech keeper Petr Cech, however, says the team will be aware of the danger of Ronaldo.

"The last time I played against him was when he was at Manchester United," said the Chelsea keeper, who could be a potential match-winner if - as in the Champions League final - the game goes to penalties.

"His shots are tremendously powerful, and he can shoot with both feet," Cech said. "He hits the target in every situation, and is an excellent header of the ball. He's the perfectly equipped footballer. We hope he is not going to score against us. None of us want him to succeed."

Bilek is confident his side can nullify the Portuguese danger and again reach a semifinal. The Czechs lost the 1996 final 2-1 to Germany, thanks to Oliver Bierhoff's golden goal, and eight years ago went out to Greece on penalties in the last four.

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